Is The Illegalization of Marijuana Valid?The debate over the legalization of Cannabis sativa, more commonly knownas marijuana, has been one of the most heated controversies ever to occur in theUnited States. Its use as a medicine has existed for thousands of years in manycountries world wide and is documented as far back as 2700 BC in ancient Chinesewritings. When someone says ganja, cannabis, bung, dope, grass, rasta, or weed,they are talking about the same subject: marijuana. Marijuana should belegalized because the government could earn money from taxes on its sale, itsvalue to the medical world outweighs its abuse potential, and because of itsimportance to the paper and clothing industries.
This action should be takendespite efforts made by groups which say marijuana is a harmful drug which willincrease crime rates and lead users to other more dangerous substances.
The actual story behind the legislature passed against marijuana isquite surprising. According to Jack Herer, author of The Emperor Wears NoClothes, the acts bringing about the demise of hemp were part of a largeconspiracy involving DuPont, Harry J.
Anslinger, commissioner of the FederalBureau of Narcotics (FBN), and many other influential industrial leaders such asWilliam Randolph Hearst and Andrew Mellon. Herer notes that the Marijuana TaxAct, which passed in 1937, coincidentally occurred just as the decoricatormachine was invented. With this invention, hemp would have been able to takeover competing industries almost instantaneously. According to Popular Mechanics,”10,000 acres devoted to hemp will produce as much paper as 40,000 acres ofaverage forest pulp land.” William Hearst owned enormous timber acreage so hisinterest in preventing the growth of hemp can be easily explained. Competitionfrom hemp would have easily driven the Hearst paper-manufacturing company out ofbusiness and significantly lowered the value of his land. Herer even suggestspopularizing the term “marijuana” was a strategy Hearst used in order to createfear in the American public. Herer says “The first step in creating hysteriawas to introduce the element of fear of the unknown by using a word that no onehad ever heard of before… ‘marijuana'”.
DuPont’s involvement in the anti-hemp campaign can also be explainedwith great ease. At this time, DuPont was patenting a new sulfuric acid processfor producing wood-pulp paper. According to the company’s own records, wood-pulpproducts ultimately accounted for more than 80% of all DuPont’s railroad carloadings for the 50 years the Marijuana Tax Act was passed. It should also besaid that two years before the prohibitive hemp tax in 1937, DuPont developednylon which was a substitute for hemp rope. The year after the tax was passedDuPont came out with rayon, which would have been unable to compete with thestrength of hemp fiber or its economical process of manufacturing. “DuPont’spoint man was none other than Harry Anslinger…who was appointed to the FBN byTreasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, who was also chairman of the Mellon Bank,DuPont’s chief financial backer. Anslinger’s relationship to Mellon wasn’t justpolitical, he was also married to Mellon’s niece” (Hartsell).
The reasoning behind DuPont, Anslinger, and Hearst was not for any moralor health related issues. They fought to prevent the growth of this newindustry so they wouldn’t lose money. In fact, the American Medical Associationtried to argue for the medical benefits of hemp. Marijuana is actually lessdangerous than alcohol, cigarettes, and even most over-the-counter medicines orprescriptions. According to Francis J. Young, the DEA’s administrative judge,”nearly all medicines have toxic, potentially lethal affects, but marijuana isnot such a substance…Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safesttherapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rationalanalysis marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medicalcare” (DEA Docket No. 86-22, 57). It doesn’t make sense then, for marijuana tobe illegal in the United States when alcohol poisoning is a major cause ofdeath in this country and approximately 400,000 premature deaths are attributedto cigarettes annually. Dr. Roger Pertwee, Secretary of the InternationalCannabis Research Society states that as a recreational drug, “Marijuanacompares favorably to nicotine, alcohol, and even caffeine.” Under extremeamounts of alcohol a person will experience an “inability to stand or walkwithout help, stupor and near unconsciousness, lack of comprehension of what isseen or heard, shock, and breathing and heartbeat may stop.” Even though theseeffects occur only under an extreme amount of alcohol consumption, (.2-.5 BAL)the fact is smoking extreme amounts of marijuana will do nothing more than putyou to sleep, while drinking excessive amounts of alcohol will kill you.
The most profound activist for marijuana’s use as a medicine is Dr.
Lester Grinspoon, author of Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine. According toGrinspoon, “The only well confirmed negative effect of marijuana is caused bythe smoke, which contains three times more tars and five times more carbonmonoxide than tobacco. But even the heaviest marijuana smokers rarely use asmuch as an average tobacco smoker. And, of course, many prefer to eat it.” Hisbook includes personal accounts of how prescribed marijuana alleviated epilepsy,weight loss of AIDs, nausea of chemotherapy, menstrual pains, and the severeeffects of Multiple Sclerosis. The illness with the most documentation andharmony among doctors which marijuana has successfully treated is MS. Grinspoonbelieves for MS sufferers, “Cannabis is the drug of necessity.” One patient ofhis, 51 year old Elizabeth MacRory, says “It has completely changed my life…Ithas helped with muscle spasms, allowed me to sleep properly, and helped controlmy bladder.” Marijuana also proved to be effective in the treatment of glaucomabecause its use lowers pressure on the eye.
“In a recent survey at a leading teaching hospital, ‘over 60 per cent ofmedical students were found to be marijuana users.’ In the same survey, only 30per cent admitted to smoking cigarettes” (Guardian). Brian Hilliard, editor ofPolice Review, says “Legalizing cannabis wouldn’t do any harm to anybody. Weshould be concentrating on the serious business of heroin and amphetamines.””In the UK in 1991, 42,209 people were convicted of marijuana charges, cloggingcourts and overcrowding prisons…and almost 90 per cent of drug offensesinvolve cannabis…The British government spends 500 million pounds a year on”overall responses to drugs” but receives no tax revenue from the estimated 1.8billion pound illicit drug market” (Guardian). Figures like this can be seen inthe United States as well. The US spends billions of dollars annually on thewar on drugs. If the government were to legalize marijuana, it could reasonablyplace high taxes on it because people are used to buying marijuana at extremelyhigh prices created by the risks of selling marijuana illegally. It could besold at a convenient store just like a pack of cigarettes for less than someonewould pay now, but still yield a high profit because of easy growingrequirements.
An entire industry could be created out of hemp based products. Theoils extracted from seeds could be used for fuels and the hemp fiber, a fiber sovalued for its strength that it is used to judge the quality of other fibers,could be manufactured into ropes, clothing, or paper. Most importantly, themoney the government would make from taxes and the money which would be saved bynot trying to prevent its use could be used for more important things, such asserious drugs or the national debt.
The recreational use of marijuana would not stimulate crime like somewould argue. The crime rate in Amsterdam, where marijuana is legal, is lowerthan many major US cities. Mario Lap, a key drug policy advisor in theNetherlands national government says “We’ve had a realistic drug policy for 30years in the Netherlands, and we know what works. We distinguish between softand hard drugs, between traffickers and users. We try not to make people intocriminals” (Houston Chronicle).
We can expect strong opposition from companies like DuPont and papermanufacturers but the selfishness of these corporations should not prevent itsuse in our society like it did in the 1930’s. Regardless of what theseorganizations will say about marijuana, the fact is it has the potential tobecome one of the most useful substances in the entire world. If we took actionand our government legalized it today, we would immediately see benefits fromthis decision. People suffering from illnesses ranging from manic depression toMultiple Sclerosis would be able to experience relief. The government couldmake billions of dollars off of the taxes it could impose on its sale, and itsimplementation into the industrial world would create thousands of new jobs forthe economy. Also, because of its role in paper making, the rain forests ofSouth America could be saved from their current fate of extinction. No recordeddeaths have ever occurred as a result of marijuana use, it is not physicallyaddictive like alcohol or tobacco, and most doctors will agree it is safer touse. Marijuana being illegal has no validity at all. Due to all the positiveaspects of marijuana it should be legalized in the United States.
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